January 01, 2008

Stereotypes in Rose Parade

Happened to catch a few minutes of the Rose Parade on TV this morning. And wouldn't you know it? The first float I saw featured a giant Indian.

Farmers Insurance Rose Bowl Float Features Towering Native-American ChiefHe stands 60 feet tall, holds a peace pipe under his right arm, and wooden feathered cane in his left and is crafted entirely from flowers, vegetables and other natural material. He is a Native American Chief standing proudly in full regalia on the Rose Parade float presented by Farmers Group, Inc.

This year’s Rose Parade theme is Passport to the World’s Celebrations. “Farmers entry, “Celebrating Our Rich Heritage” honors Native Americans and the contributions they have made to our country,” noted Farmers Insurance CEO Paul Hopkins. “Farmers will be observing its 80th anniversary in 2008 and we recognize the success we have achieved is due to the rich tapestry of cultures America embraces. This is the 49th consecutive year Farmers will be part of this great American tradition.”
Comment:  To be specific, the float featured--what else?--a giant Plains chief. Not a star athlete like Jim Thorpe, an award-winning author like Sherman Alexie, or a US Vice President like Charles Curtis. To most people, "Indian heritage" means the same Indian chief you've seen a thousand times.

True, the chief looked pretty lifelike for a figure made of dead plants. But he was posed like a typical wooden Indian. Indians don't smile, tell jokes, or do a jig, obviously.

Accompanying the Indian were two bears and a cowboy on a horse. I'm not sure what they had to do with celebrating Indians' heritage. I guess they were there to remind us that Indians lived in the Wild West--where buffalo roamed and deer played--before they vanished. Because they certainly didn't tell us that Indians continue to live...in cities...in the East, the South, and the Far West.

It's tough to say which stereotype is bigger: a Plains chief in buckskins and headdress or a Plains warrior with no shirt and a single feather. At least the float didn't include teepees or Indian maidens waving like beauty queens. Thank heaven for small favors.

Below:  An illustration of the float. This picture shows the mounted rider as another Indian chief, not a cowboy. I thought I saw a cowboy, but maybe I was mistaken. Or maybe Farmers Insurance changed the float after this illustration was made.

9 comments:

russell said...

Writerfella here --
In his most recent public appearances, writerfella smiled and told jokes, but he admits still to be working on dancing that jig. Hey, who knew that Native public appearances could be so hard?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Anonymous said...

Thank God the float didn't depict an Indian standing in front of a MEGA CASINO...Cha-Ching :)

Anonymous said...

Thank who for no Indian in front of the Venetian/Palazzo mega-casino lead float for the parade? Vegas casino had their float leading the way into the New Year while we lament depictions.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
BUT -- isn't any kind of advertising and/or promotion, however untoward, eventually working in the favor of the object depicted? Even Rob's immature and emotionally fraught review of the film 300 caused people to become curious about it, and so they went to see it, flying in the face of his 'review.' Talk about 'reverse psychology'...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I don't mind if people go to see something stereotypical as long as they keep my critical comments in mind. They may learn as much from a bad representation as from a good one.

In other words, my goal isn't to censor stereotypes. It's to educate people about them.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Now, if writerfella only could remember what that non-review said (Note To The Needy: Rob ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to view the film BEFORE he non-reviewed it!). writerfella remembers the film, in fact seeing it twice, and even owns it on DVD. But that ephemeral non-review flew off into archive obscurity, which likely is where it belongs anyway...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I didn't review 300, Russ. I summarized the critical comments about 300's racism. Not surprisingly, you failed to see the difference between the light-skinned Spartans and the dark-skinned Persians. Even when I posted a picture of it in front of your face.

For the record, I haven't met George W. Bush, participated in NASA's space program, or felt the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina personally. But I have opinions on all these things. How is that possible if, as in Russ's world, you can't address something unless you've experienced it yourself?

Yes, I definitely refuse to patronize any ultra-violent movie, especially when the violence is gratuitous. As in the case of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. A slew of reviewers noted that blood spurted and heads rolled for no good reason.

Fortunately, there's a huge difference between my reviews (e.g., of Four Sheets to the Wind), and my non-reviews. In the former I share my own opinions. In the latter I summarize the opinions of critics, scholars, and other experts. Since the difference is clear, readers have no reason to be concerned.

As far as I can tell, you're the only one who has trouble telling them apart. And the only one who cares about the distinction. As with your many self-referential postings, you must enjoy talking to yourself, because you sure aren't talking to anyone else.

And as with so many issues, you're a hypocrite on this point too. Why won't you read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary, for instance? You've prejudged it to be unworthy even though you claim you never prejudge anything. What a joke that is.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Yes, that's the old journalistic excuse for NOT writing, as the use of one writer's words would be plagiarism and the use of many writers' words is 'research.'
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Wow, you just failed to address a dozen salient points. As usual, you're too intellectually afraid or dishonest to respond.

Readers of Newspaper Rock know I often write my own reviews. If you don't know this, you're a blithering idiot.

I don't know what "excuse" you're referring to with your vague rejoinder. So I'll merely reiterate my point:

For the record, I haven't met George W. Bush, participated in NASA's space program, or felt the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina personally. But I have opinions on all these things. How is that possible if, as in Russ's world, you can't address something unless you've experienced it yourself?